Where inclusion means online community

nder the banner of Better Behaviour, Better Learning, the city of Glasgow is piloting several information and communications technology programmes.

Better Behaviour, Better Learning is an inclusionist Scottish Executive initiative developed by Edict Training, which creates educational websites and trains teachers in ICT.

"Edict can help support pupils in the classroom and in alternative provision where rooms are set up with ICT," says Ivan Mykytyn, a consultant with Edict Training, which is in charge of the project.

"We put in support structures to train the staff how to use ICT effectively, especially in alternative provision," he says.

"Improving literacy improves behaviour and ICT can help specifically, using multi-sensory programs, programs that use images and the spoken word, that cater for different learning styles, that get the pupil away from reading skills dependency."

A former special educational needs teacher, Mr Mykytyn says that because the tasks in these programs are often practical, they help with behaviour, especially among boys. there is also often a competitive element which spurs them on.

"Computers can help the pupil develop basic cognitive skills, such as short-term memory. Simple programs such as Thinking Things help build these skills and they include diagnostic programs so that the teacher can plan developments," he says.

"We also use integrated learning packages such as PLATO, which pitches learning at appropriate levels with lots of practice exercises built in.

"The overall approach is about access to facilities, trained teachers and software focused to the needs of the individual learner," he says.

"Using ICT also enables teachers to share ideas and experiences electronically with teachers in other schools so that we can build e-forums and libraries of frequently asked questions."

As part of the strategy, Edict is working on a website for Glasgow's Positive Inclusion Partnership, which trains families and teachers in behaviour issues.

"The PIP website should have courses online by the new year, specifically about tackling behaviour problems, and courses like these can be credited for CPD."

Edict, together with Glasgow education department, is also piloting a School's Out project for non-attenders this year. Home-based pupils will be able to access the Glasgow Education Network via a virtual private network.

Mr Mykytyn describes how it works. "There will be daily e-mail contact with teachers during the school week plus a home visit by the teacher once a week and the work will focus on an agreed individual education plan.

"The first six pupils will be coming online soon and by the end of this term we'd expect some 30 non-attenders to be online."

"It won't look like school or school work. It'll be more like a community with opportunities for pupils to show and share what they're doing with each other, to get help and to help others.

"It's about overcoming isolation through a community ethos.

"Glasgow has some 800 hand-held computers which pupils can take home.

"The future of education will mean more community involvement and more education in the community. What we are developing is being done generically so that other local authorities could decide to adopt the model."

Glasgow is also planning a community languages project for next year. This will provide resources in community languages, Urdu or Cantonese for example, so that pupils can learn in that language.

"It's now recognised that all children have a right to be educated, whether they attend school or not," says Mr Mykytyn. "Technology makes this possible but - and it is an important but - this approach will only work with good ICT support and face-to-face communication.

"ICT offers curricular flexibility, supports social inclusion, allows for staged intervention, promotes positive behaviour and helps disseminate good practice, all of which promotes the idea of creating a learning community in keeping with the recommendations of the government's discipline task group report 2001."

Ivan Mykytyn talks on Better Behaviour, Better Learning at 12.15pm, September 25 and 1.15pm, September 26. Susan Kozicki and Sandy Cunningham talk on School's Out: Supporting Interrupted Learners, 1.15pm, September 25 and 3.15pm, Sept 26

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